Why do some races start from stalls and some not?

Paddy explains what the difference is between a stalls start and a free start in horse racing

horse racing stalls betting guide Melbourne Cup

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When you next live stream horse racing with Paddy Power be sure to keep an eye out for how your chosen race starts. You’ll notice that the race either begins in stalls — with horses evenly lined up — or it begins as a rabble of runners all fighting for position in a mass bundle.

Well, there are good reasons why some races start from stalls and others don’t. And Paddy is here to explain what this weird discrepancy in horse racing is all about in out latest Demystifying Racing guide…

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WHAT ARE HORSE RACING STALLS FOR?

Horse racing stalls are used to maximise the competitive fairness of short races. Many Flat races in the UK and Ireland, and the vast majority of track races in the USA and Australia, use stalls.

Just like in sprint athletics, it would be unfair if runners getting ready for a short race were stood ahead of their opponents on the start line. So, like in athletics, the stalls act as a starting block for horses, who bolt as soon as the doors open.

This ensures all horses begin running at the same time, and all have exactly the same distance to cover, which makes for better racing betting odds. In major races such as the Melbourne Cup, stalls can be as big as 25-horses wide, which in turn produces enthralling sprint finishes with the majority of runners in contention to win.

Horses line up in the stalls ready to race at Ascot (Image: GETTY)

WHAT HORSE RACES USE STALLS

As mentioned, the Melbourne Cup is one of the most iconic races in the world to use stalls. In the UK, major Flat races like the St Leger, the Oaks and the Royal Ascot Gold Cup feature stalls.

Meanwhile, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France, America’s Preakness Stakes and the Dubai World Cup also feature stalls starts. And Paddy offers extensive horse racing betting odds on each of these major races.

WHY NATIONAL HUNT RACES DON’T USE STALLS

You may think that not using stalls could give one horse an advantage over another. After all, if a horse is lucky enough to be leading the runners from the off in a National Hunt race, then surely they are more likely to win?

Well, National Hunt races tend not to use stalls because of a number of factors. The primary one is that there are enough fences and hurdles during National Hunt races to ensure that any slight advantage from starting front of the pack is quickly diminished.

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Unlike Flat races, National Hunts are more like marathons than sprints — and so the two or three lengths a horse may earn to its advantage when starting on the tape or in a group dissipates.

Another issue is that horses that are running National Hunt races are all set to leap over fences or jumps. Jockeys often trot their horse up to a fence before a race, so the animal can gauge the height and become accustomed to its surroundings. Therefore the last thing they need is further distraction by being placed in a box before setting off!

Does the post position draw impact on racing odds?

Post position draws are done before races to determine which horse will go in which stall. And for some races – especially on America’s oval racetracks – the post position is hugely important. Races such as the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Belmont Stakes make a ceremony out of the stalls draw, and whichever horses are landed a rail or outside number can see their odds inflate. Many punters therefore play the ante-post markets until the draw, and make a quick profit if their chosen horse is drawn in the central positions.

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